What's Your Strategic Plan For The Future?

As a CEO, your days can be overwhelming when packed full of daily meetings, tasks, and the immediate needs of your business. The significant shifts from the pandemic caused us to look at shorter increments of time and make adjustments quickly. Our sense of time has changed. Now it's time to think bigger than the day-to-day and focus more on your company's vision for the future and your strategic plan.

Looking Back and Learning

Days blend into weeks, weeks into months, and before you know it, the year is almost over. So, how have you performed to your annual plan? Did you accomplish the initiatives you set out to? Is your sales leader continuing to develop their sales leadership skills? Is your team hitting their goals?

Taking time to review, assess and reset your strategic vision and initiatives is vital for intentional growth. Are you experiencing growth? Is it sustainable? Where is that growth coming from? Which customers, product/service lines, or territories is it coming from? Do you know where it should be coming from to hit your profit goals?

Keep Moving Forward and Progressing

While many CEOs and owners would agree that strategic planning is essential, some aren't willing to take the time to step away from the day-to-day to see the bigger picture. In fact, according to Cascade, "in 49% of organizations, leaders spend only one day a month reviewing their strategic implementation."

They may have had the best of intentions, but time got away. So how can you avoid the same mistake?

5 Ways to Prioritize Strategic Planning

According to a survey, McKinsey & Company states, "an overwhelming 74 percent of executives don't have faith that their company's transformative strategies will succeed." But you can avoid that with these steps.

Have a Process and Follow it Annually

Strategic planning is an annual process. Just because you built the plan for 3-5 years does not mean you need to follow the same method to update and revise the following year. You've learned more in the last year, and you will want to capture that and apply it to the next 3–5-year plans.

The outlook timeframe has decreased significantly - the 1-year lens is the most important. However, you don't want to lose sight of those longer-term goals of 3+ years, so that you continue building towards the right destination.

Inc. concluded, "that the vast majority of strategic planning fails, up to 67 percent of the time." Don't join that statistic. Instead, focus on making your strategic plan more successful.

Successful strategic planning processes include assessing the current state of the business and  gaining alignment with everyone on the leadership team. Then you can move onto the desired state. In this desired state, you are determining what could be possible in your business. Take the time to stretch your thinking and creativity. You will need to get to a more granular plan including tasks and activities with build accountability built into it. Without this last step, your strategic plan will likely stay on the page you wrote it on.

Have quarterly reviews to discuss and report out on progress. Take what you learned and apply it to the next quarter's milestones.

Identify Key Employees to Own and Drive the Process

Assigning ownership of driving the strategic planning process is integral in ensuring the process is completed. While you have multiple members on the executive team, who will be the champion?

Once your strategic plan is developed, be very clear on who is responsible for what part of the implementation. What things require group updates and feedback, and what things can they just take and run with?

Have Someone Else Facilitate it

It may seem like a good idea to facilitate the strategic planning sessions yourself. You know your business better than anyone. The challenge is that your attention is divided between moving the group forward in the process and generating and sharing your ideas and insights. When you commit to being a participant only, you can unlock your best thinking and leverage the time you invest instead of leading it yourself.

Protect your Time Early 

Have a cadence to when and how often you will review and revise your strategic plan. Then, add events to the calendar early so people can make plans around them.

Once you have regular planning time scheduled, protect it. Make it a priority and dedicate the effort that is required. Don't allow other things to creep in and take that time. This can be very challenging to do, especially if those other things are tied to generating revenue.

Communicate Clearly with the Organization

Execution of strategy falls apart when it is poorly communicated. According to Boardview, "33% of leaders rate their organization as poor or very poor at implementing strategy."

 Often the leadership team has been so intimately involved in all of the details, they can forget that the team does not have all of the same information or understanding of the strategy.

The first thing that needs to be communicated is the why behind the changes that are being made. The more people understand the purpose, the easier it is for them to buy into what you are doing. They will also need to know what's in it for them. How does the why apply to them and their role? If it's suitable for the company, fine, but if it's good for me, then great!

Another critical part of your communication strategy will include the actions you need people to take. With this new information – what are you asking them to do? Be specific with timelines and due dates. Many parts of your strategy will likely not have been built out yet. Involve others in making a more granular plan.

Give them clear guidelines and expectations to work within so they don't stray from what you are looking for. But allow them to get their ideas, insights, and fingerprints on it to deepen their execution ownership.

In The End

Having a myopic lens on your business and being so focused on what is happening today can have long-term impacts on the trajectory of your business. Investing the time in strategic planning will give you a refined lens in which to view the company, provide clear direction to follow, and a communication strategy to get the team involved in the execution.

 It will also allow your leadership team to collaborate, learn from each other, and be aligned with your company's direction. This synergy breeds positive organizational cultures and sets everyone up for success.

Enhance your leadership skills and proactively build your legacy.

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